Without Shame or Fear

Monday, December 23, 2013 — Week of Advent 4, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 61, 62 (morning) // 112, 115 (evening)

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Titus 1:1-16

Luke 1:1-25

Yesterday was the last Sunday of Advent, and I miss it already. Of course I’m looking forward to Christmas, but one of the phrases that I love to say and hear comes from our Advent liturgy. The proper preface for Advent in our Eucharistic prayer looks forward to the approach of Christ, when “we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.”

“Without shame or fear.” Imagine living that way. Imagine the freedom, courage, vulnerability, and trust that could come from living without shame or fear. Without shame or fear, we could truly rejoice. Our Scripture readings this morning help prepare us for the appearance of Christ by promising to free people from shame and fear.

The prophet Zephaniah fills God’s people with this promise. With the Lord in their midst, “you shall fear disaster no more.” And the Lord will gather the disabled and the outcast, “and I will change their shame into praise.” Whatever people fear, whatever people are ashamed of, the Lord’s presence will remove.

The gospel passage shows this power of God at work in the life of one particular person: Elizabeth. In spite of living a blameless life, Elizabeth was barren. She and her husband Zechariah had no children, and they were “getting on in years.” When Elizabeth does conceive a child as promised by the angel Gabriel, she proclaims that the Lord “looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Elizabeth’s childlessness must have cast a shadow over her life—a shadow of suspicion, embarrassment, humiliation. But the Lord’s activity in her life scatters fear, wipes away shame, and confirms the promise to her husband, “You will have joy and gladness.” Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but in due time.

In these last hours of Advent, how can we ask God to prepare us to meet his son without shame or fear? How can we hear the promise that someday, after our darkest hours, we will have joy and gladness? It’s almost our last chance to pray for these things in this way before we turn to welcome our Lord.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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